Wool, Fur, and Leather: Hazardous to the Environment
***What’s Wrong With Wool?
Shearing sheep involves more than just a haircut. Sheep need the wool that they naturally produce to protect themselves from temperature extremes.
Because shearers are usually paid by volume rather than by the hour, they often work too fast and disregard the animals' welfare. Sheep are routinely punched, kicked, and cut during the shearing process.
Much of the world's wool comes from Australia,
where tens of millions of sheep each year undergo a gruesome procedure called mulesing, in which shears are used to cut dinner-plate-sized chunks of skin off the backsides of live animals without anesthetics.
Millions of sheep raised for wool in Australia are shipped to the Middle East and North Africa for slaughter. These animals are placed on extremely crowded, disease-ridden ships with little access to food or water for weeks or even months. During their grueling journeys, they suffer through weather extremes, and temperatures on the ships can exceed 100°F. Many fall ill when they become stuck in feces and are unable to move, and many others are smothered or trampled to death by other sheep.
Intensive sheep farming, especially in Australia, is responsible for the degradation of natural waterways and land habitats and for the emission of greenhouse gases, such as methane, into the atmosphere.
When you buy wool products, it is likely that you are buying wool from sheep who were raised in Australia, and since most wool is routed through China for processing, product labeling rarely indicates where the wool originated.
Visit SaveTheSheep.com for more information on the wool industry
*Wool / Watch out for wool hiding in pants and suits (read labels!), and take a pass on pashmina, angora, cashmere, shearling, camel hair, and mohair, too—all made from animals.
Instead, look for snuggly warm synthetic fabrics, such as polyester fleece, acrylic, and cotton flannel—they wash easily, keep their bright colors, cost less, and don’t contribute to cruelty.
Heavy, bulky wool can’t hold a candle to revolutionary new fabrics like Gore-Tex, Thermolite, Thinsulate, and Polartec Wind Pro, which is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles and has four times the wind resistance of wool.
It also wicks away moisture and is available at Patagonia and other outdoor outfitters.
*Tencel, a natural fabric made from wood pulp, is a breathable, durable, and biodegradable alternative to wool for men’s and women’s dress suits.
If you’re looking for a suit, start shopping in the spring, when summer suits made from cotton, viscose, and other lighter materials are available from retailers such as 99X, TravelSmith, Pangea, and others.
For nonwool tuxedos, try ETuxedo.com or CheapTux.com.
***What’s Wrong With Silk?
Silk is the fiber that silkworms weave to make cocoons. To obtain silk, manufacturers boil worms alive in their cocoons.
Humane alternatives to silk include nylon, milkweed seed-pod fibers, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, and rayon.
Silk / Find humane alternatives to silk ties and other silk items—including such fabrics as nylon, polyester, rayon, Tencel, milkweed seed pod fibers, and even silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments—online and in stores for a fraction of the price of silk.
***What’s Wrong With Down?
Down—which is used to fill comforters, pillows, parkas, and other products—is the soft underfeathering of geese.
*Down is plucked from geese either after slaughter or while they are being raised for meat or foie gras (“fatty liver”), which is produced by force-feeding geese through a funnel until their livers balloon to seven to 12 times their normal size.
*Plucking birds causes them considerable pain and distress; one study found that the blood glucose level, an indicator of stress, of geese nearly doubled as they were being plucked.
Down is expensive and loses its insulating ability when wet, while the insulating capabilities of cruelty-free synthetic fillers persist in all weather conditions.
Down / Down-free coats, sleeping bags, comforters, pillows and more can be found virtually anywhere, including Eddie Bauer, the Company Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
*Read labels looking for “synthetic down,” “down alternative,” “polyester fill,” or a high-tech fabric like Primaloft, a soft, washable, downlike fiber that is often used in coats, gloves, and comforters and that stays warm even when wet, unlike down.
***What's Wrong With Leather?
Millions of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats are slaughtered for their skin every year. They are castrated, branded, and dehorned and have their tails docked without anesthetics. Then they are trucked to slaughter, bled to death, and skinned. Leather is not simply a slaughterhouse byproduct—it’s a booming industry.
The meat industry relies on skin sales to stay in business because the skin represents the most economically important byproduct of the meat-packing industry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Animal skin is turned into finished leather through the use of dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chrome, and other toxins.
*People who have worked in and lived near tanneries are dying of cancer caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye the leather. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a solvent used in tanning leather appears to be associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer.
When you buy leather products, you may be purchasing leather from Asian dog and cat tanneries; because product labeling rarely indicates where the skins originate, there’s no way to know for sure.
Visit CowsAreCool.com for more information on the leather http://www.cowsarecool.com
*Leather : Look under shoe tongues, on tags, and on the insides of belts and bags for fake leather buzzwords like “manmade leather,” “all-manmade materials,” “pleather,” and “synthetic.”
No label or unsure? Ask a salesperson if it is “real” leather.
Finally, the price may clue you in. Typically, synthetic leather sells at a fraction of the price of real leather!
Forget about coats with fur collars and trim and fur accessories. Again, read labels to weed out cruel products.
Cruelty-free faux furs made of plush modern synthetics are becoming easier and easier to find.
Soy ‘Silk’: Mostly found under the brand name SOYSILK®, this yarn really does knit up like the real thing. It’s soft and luxurious and drapes well. I mostly use it for spring cardigans and wraps.
Bamboo: This lightweight yarn often comes in fingerling weight, and since it’s made out of bamboo, it’s super strong. So no more complaining that there’s no decent sock yarn out there that isn’t made from animal products.
Cotton: Easy to knit with and versatile, cotton is also one of the cheaper nonsynthetic fibers that you can buy. Plus, if you’re in a pinch and need a quick gift, you can knit up a washcloth, throw some nice soap and bath salts in a basket, and you’re ready to go.
There’re many more types of plant-based fibers out there, and of course, there’s the plethora of synthetic “novelty” yarns that can be found anywhere from yarn boutiques to the Dollar Store.
So scrounge around and see what you can find.
In the meantime, visit SaveTheSheep.com for more information on alternative fibers and where to find them